The Silicon Review
Virtual production has existed for a while now, and in the digital world we live in, it plays an important role throughout the production lifecycle. Accelerated by the need for a more seamless production process as well as Covid-19 and environmental concerns driving less travel and fewer production crew, virtual production is bringing in the next era of filmmaking. With virtual production, your visual effects are no longer applied only in post-production. Rather, the technology empowers pre-planning and real-time changes on virtual sets. It pushed teams to adjust their creative workflow and work with new tools and pipelines. Virtual production is more than just connecting people virtually. It has allowed several studios to innovate more, build bigger, and deliver improved results. Globally, there are various companies delivering excellent virtual production solutions, but disguise stands out as being the most reliable. disguise is the platform for creative and technical professionals to imagine, create and deliver the world’s most spectacular visual experiences. The company’s software-on-hardware solution creates a powerful, collaborative environment where artists and technologists can take control of their production, from concept development to showtime, and bring their shared vision to life.
Users have trusted disguise’s Designer software for over two decades to visualize, design, and sequence video content for projects across live entertainment, broadcast, fixed installations, and, more recently, virtual production. Users can rely on disguise’s Designer software to win pitches, develop storyboards, create camera fly-throughs, validate content, test their technical setups, and design entire shows. Coupled with this, the company’s powerful media server range offers leading graphics processing, content rendering, and content compositing capabilities for these projects. This allows disguise’s users to put the content they develop in Designer to action. They can render content at unlimited scale and complexity and compose it seamlessly with disguise hardware’s superior networking capabilities which ensure the highest level of frame accuracy. This content can be anything imaginable, including real-time graphics developed in Unreal Engine for virtual sets, video playback content played at unlimited scale in live shows, projection-mapped installations, or even content that can move and respond to the world around it. disguise also offers support and training. At the end of 2020, the company launched its free eLearning platform, allowing its community of users to upskill and get acquainted with workflows. disguise has a Community platform with over 3,000 users with whom it works together to overcome common challenges in productions.
In conversation with Raed Al Tikriti, Chief Product Officer of disguise
Q. xR techs are gaining traction in recent times. How versatile is the application?
Extended Reality (xR) is highly versatile - it refers to anything that blends the real and the virtual worlds together. It encompasses Augmented Reality (AR), which is a widely used term to describe the addition of 3D-generated content composited over a live background view that provides the appearance of content sitting in (or augmenting) the real world. This has been used to great effect in some broadcast shows such as the 2021 Euroleague Basketball Final Four opening show as well as live shows like the BTS ‘Love yourself: speak yourself’ world tour. xR sits at the intersection of technology like virtual reality (VR), where people can experience another world through a headset as well as Mixed Reality (MR), which goes beyond composited AR, placing real-time rendered content on screens around and under actors and real objects, creating rich virtual environments that immerse the actors in the space. Starting with disguise xR’s first memorable realization in Katy Perry’s performance of ‘Daisies’ in the 2020 American Idol finale, disguise xR has since been used to realize over 400 productions in many industries, including live entertainment for artists such as Billie Eilish, film and episodic TV productions for Netflix and Amazon Prime, corporate presentations for Siemens and Verizon, and live broadcast programs from Euro sport, MTV and ITV, in more than 40 countries.
This technology is constantly evolving and is opening up a gateway to a whole new platform known as the metaverse, which is tipped to be as big as the internet. xR and the metaverse allow us to create a whole new virtual world with its own economy and rules. For example, Balenciaga has held virtual fashion shows. Siemens showcased its latest developments in a virtual trade show. Artists like DJ Marshmello performed to 11 million virtual viewers within Epic Games’ Fortnite. In the future, people will soon be purchasing physical goods and getting their digital equivalents or vice-versa. The metaverse will be a digital “twin” of the world as we know it today. Together with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, disguise xR was used to create a hybrid concert in the game Fortnite starring American DJ Kaskade. People could experience the concert both live and inside the game - unlocking a whole new universe for amazing experiences.
Q. There are other major players in this segment. How do you distinguish your services/ standout from the rest?
Although there are similar platforms on the market, disguise’s technology is the most reliable end-to-end solution that allows our users to make changes in their production on-the-fly and maintain ultimate control of all elements. Our history in live events means we have built our technology to be used in an environment where there is no room for error. We also enable our users to perfectly previsualize their projects using our Designer software, while our proprietary RenderStream infrastructure seamlessly manages the rendering, tracking and synchronisation of content - thereby significantly simplifying system deployment and operations. We also have a close relationship with the creators of Unreal Engine - Epic Games - and have integrated our software with the latest version of Unreal Engine from day one - whereas other tools may need additional configuration. These factors give our software and hardware a competitive edge and are the reason why many of our customers see us as leaders in the field.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We have just launched our r20 software release, which has made our software available in six new languages. These include, in addition to English, Spanish, German, French, Korean, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese. It also has introduced improved workflows and integrations - allowing our users to collaborate and work more effectively. Through this landmark release, we aim to expand the reach of our award-winning platform around the globe. Users will also have the opportunity to undergo training in their local language to become certified disguise specialists, with access to translated training materials and user manuals in the above six languages. The localization and our recent acquisition of leading 3D content previsualization platforms Mapping Matter and Previz represent the next step in disguise’s move towards remote, cloud-based global collaboration.
Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?
We have recently expanded our operations around the world with new office openings and dedicated support and technical solutions teams based permanently in Seoul, Korea; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing, China; and Auckland, New Zealand on top of our existing presence in key markets in EMEA and the Americas - with a dedicated support and technical solutions representative in Spain and an ever-expanding team in our London HQ and LA office. disguise is currently used in 40 countries. This global presence will continue to grow as extended reality, and disguise xR starts being adopted as a mainstay, especially in film and TV broadcasts. There is also our solutions’ ability to access the metaverse, which will be the next platform for all our experiences. As early innovators in this field, we are uniquely placed to lay the groundwork for a future digital world.
Meet the leader behind the success of disguise
As Chief Product Officer for visual storytelling company disguise, Raed Al Tikriti is constantly keeping his eye on the market to understand how best to move disguise forward. He combines a deep technical understanding of how and why products get made with excellent relationship management skills, to help disguise exceed customer expectations. Raed has an extensive background in product management, having previously held similar roles across broadcast technology and digital media on both sides of the Atlantic, including Grass Valley in Canada and Ventuz in Germany.